This blog reflects my 40 years of experience with reading research, from neuroscience labs to classrooms. Seriously concerned about the problem that 2/3 of America’s children still are struggling to read, we have applied and received grants from the National Institute of Child Health & Development to develop and do research with software to help children learn to read. Our mission has been to provide instructional materials that implement what science has found about how children become skilled readers.
One thing Talking Fingers has emphasized over the last 30 years is the importance of speech and a speech-to-print approach to learning to read. I’ll talk more about this in blogs to come. But here are two quotes to start out this conversation about the importance of speech:
“The process of learning to read must be understood as a reorganization of the management of oral speech, its transformation from an automatic process (dealing with whole words) to a voluntary, consciously regulated process (segmenting words into individual sounds), which then becomes automatic with practice.” D. B. Elkonin
“Learning an alphabetic code is like acquiring a virus [that] infects all speech processing, as now whole word sounds are automatically broken up into sound constituents. Language is never the same again.” Uta Frith
Consciously noticing that your mouth makes different sounds when you say a word is what Elkonin describes as a “reorganization of the management of oral speech.” You must add a new group of pathways and connections in your brain’s speech center. What you have always thought of as whole words must now be also thought of as a string of sounds. It is not an easy task, and phoneme awareness is the skill that is most frequently missing in children who struggle to read. It is the organization of these pathways, and the habitual use of them that enables us to instantly recognize words and decode new words.
FINALLY! My book, Making Speech Visible, is done and published! It has been a major preoccupation for the last year. I have tried to synthesize my 35 years of reading research into a simple and readable book for parents and educators.
I am 74 this year, and there comes a time when you want to put what you have learned into the hands of others. So, Making Speech Visible is also biographical. It includes short vignettes about how I got interested in reading research and what people said to me along the way to move me in one direction or another. I have pursued this one path most of my life—finding and communicating evidence that writing is the best path to reading.
I want to recommend a new report from the Carnegie Corporation of NY called WRITING TO READ: New Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading. It is an urgent call to include more writing across the curriculum. According to findings from the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 34 percent of 4th grade students and 43 percent of 8th grade students score at the “basic” level, (only partial mastery of grade level reading) and 33 percent of 4th graders and 26 percent of 8th graders scored “below basic” in reading. The picture for writing is even worse: two-thirds of 8th grade students and three quarters of 12th graders score at “basic” or “below basic” in writing. This is a tragic situation that must be addressed, starting at pre-school and kindergarten. Take up the challenge!
Find out more and download the report here: To Improve Reading, Teach Writing (on the ASCD Inservice Blog)
Writing with a pencil is difficult……
You have to remember what the letters look like….
You have to draw the letters….
You have to erase…
You have to copy over…
Writing with a computer can make it easier…
You don’t have to draw the letters….just tap the right key.
You don’t have to erase…just delete and type over.
You don’t have to copy over…
You can read what you’ve written…
The text always goes from left to right…
First graders can write! And what’s more they WANT to write! The story below by Kasey, age 6, is a marvelous example, (produced in the Read, Write & Type lab at her school in Los Altos, California).
Writing is a way to learn how to think. As E.M. Forester once said “How can I know what I think until I see what I say?” As children put their ideas on paper, they have to figure out what they know, what they believe, and what they feel. As they read what they write, the ideas are changed and perfected. The earlier they start learning this process, the earlier they will develop their ability to express ideas clearly and thoughtfully.
Writing came before reading when it was first invented. Writing comes before reading as a natural way to begin to understand words on paper. It is the writer who creates words for the reader to read. It is the writer who initiates the action—who chooses the words, generates the ideas, and actively shapes the meaning of the message. It is the writer who sees the “big picture” but who, at the same time, must assemble the whole message one piece at a time from individual sounds and letters. Children can read without writing, but they cannot write without reading.
Children learn best by putting their ideas about the world into their own words and by telling (or writing) about them. Getting feedback from an audience is a good way to learn whether or not their ideas make sense.
Writing makes ideas visible. Once ideas are captured in print, children can read them over and over and think about them. They can show their ideas to others. As they revise their work, they become more confident about what they know, what they believe, and who they are.
“Plants grow from a seed and roots.
We grow from food and water and love.
Anamas grow from food and water.
Love grows from fathe.
Drowings grow from a pencel or cran or makr.
A brane grows from lrning.
A stoey grows from an idea.”
-Kasey, First Grade